tv Charlie Rose WHUT April 25, 2011 9:00am-10:00am EDT
>> rose: welcome to our program, there is a new play on broadway called "bengal tiger at the baghdad zoo" t stars robin williams, written barragive joseph and directed by moises kaufman. >> i said to moises after i read this play, this makes godot look amish or you could say a heavily armed "our town" but it is an idea that the play really kicked me hard. and it was like i went w and if i'm going to come back, why not take a chance with something this powerful. >> rose: we continue with alexandra styron and her memoir of her father, the novelist william styron. >> i feel like my father's story is a really extraordinary one. and he had this incredible success and this great rise and this really tragic fall.
and though he wrote about his depression, that book came 20 years before his death. and he didn't write another major novel, he didn't write a novel at all in those last 20 years. and there was a story there that i felt like needed to be told. and his legacy deserved it. >> rose: we conclude this evening with the author and journalist james stewart, his new book "tangled webs" is about perjury and lying. >> i'm really pleased with it. i was able mostly with the freedom of information, getting the actual transcripts which were recorded of people under oath that fact moment where you can see it, it is dram tides, you see the questions, answers building to the fateful question and then you see them cross that line. and to me those are dramatic moments. and i try to put it into a context so that you of course as the reader know when it's happening and at least have some understanding of why they are doing it. >> rose: the new play bengal tiger at the baghdad zoo,
alexandra styron and james stewart when we continue. >> funding for charlie rose was provided by the following: ory neaa l acacrossmeririca.pt@sta hoywo, evertimeme a ststis b burne t mididnighoill hen aethone chasdl for r a re herero,so iyou u want pporort sml bubusine. >> rose: additional funding provided by these founders:
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: robin williams is back at the table. he makes his broadway acting deput in bengal tiger, set in baghdad in the early months of the iraq war, the play features william as a tiger. here is a look. >> all my life i've been plagued as most tigers are, by this existential quandary, why mi here. and now that i'm dead, i'm a ghost, it's why aren't i gone. i'm sick that everything just ended, you know the leo just ended, the suicidal polar bear, dust in bones. it's alarming this life
after death. the fact is, tigers are atheists. all of us, una barbed. heaven and hell, these are just met for call constructs which represent hungry and not hungry. >> rose: "the new york times" call it a smart, savagely funny and visionary new work of american theatre. joining me now are robin williams and the costar ar on, and the playwright rajiv joseph and the director moises kaufman. i am pleased to have all of them here at this table. welcome. >> thank you. >> rose: nice to see you, nice to meet you. >> good to be here. >> rose: rajiv, tell me what this is about. >> well, this is a play that i wrote over the past seven years. and it was based on a-- that i read in a newspaper about a tiger shot and killed at the zoo after a kind of trackish between a couple shoulders there. it was a small article in the back of the paper. and that lead to the inception of the idea of the piece. and it was one idea among many that ended up kind of
bleeding from the media or from the newspapers into, you know, the play itself. which now, you know, it started off, the first scene is that scene with the two soldiers and the tiger and how it goes off not story about the translator and of the people. >> rose: tell me who your character is. >> i play a character by the name of mousa and mousa is, you know, just like lots of iraqies that were displaced at the begins of the war. he is a person that was an artist who was a top area artist. and he has then become a translator for the american soldiers. and being an earnest, loving guy, he wants to be the best translator that he can can be. but the past constantly is coming to haunt him, literally. and it's-- he goes on this journey that is just beautiful. and very, you know, very real. >> and you play the tiger.
>> the essence of a tiger, yeah. >> the essence of a tiger. >> and pretty much after the first scene, a ghost, evolving very quickly. first consciousness then a conscious, and then a conscience and basically trying to find out why i m i hear, what i am doing, why aren't i gone. when an atheist finds himself walking around after death he has some serious reevaluating to do. so it is this whole thing of-- and he's also kind of wandering around baghdad in the middle of all going what is this going on. >> rose: there are a lot of questions being asked in inn this play. >> totally. >> rose: who are we, why are we here. >> in the face of a war and where is god in this equation. and he's constantly looking for, you know, for that kind of answer. >> rose: what brought you back to broadway. and why was this the thing that got you back. >> i mean the last time i was even near broadway was good ot. >> you and steve martin mike nichols directing it. this play resonates as
strongly as that play did for me. and as powerful a piece as that. i mean i said to moises after i read this play, this makes godot look amish or you can say a heavily armed our town. but it is an idea that the play really kicked me hard. and it was like i went, and if i'm going to come back, why not take a chance with something this powerful. >> you had to-- you needed him in the play. but you needed him not to be as he's most commonly known. >> yes. >> yes. >> but having seen all of his work, i mean we have near a july yard trained actor and we knew from the first moment that he could do it. and when you see him in the play, when he is magazine any sense, there is a lot of humor in the play. but robin doesn't only get the humor which is second nature to him, but he gets all of the range of ideas and emotions that his character has. and this character is the soul of this play. the tiger that gets killed by americans in iraq, in the zoo, and his ghost continues
to permeate the rest of the war. is the soul of the play. and what has been wonderful, what is magnificent about robin's performance is that you see the range and the power of the ideas as well as of the characters. >> so what happened to the tiger when it dies, and how it develops a conscience. >> the first thing it sees is just sees himself literally out of tiger-- out of tiger experience. out of body experience going so that's what i look like? i sounded very jewish at that moment, so that's what i look like. but the first moment is awareness of that's me and then now, and then what next, and then wandering around going. and then he ends up haunting the soldier that basically shot him. and then wandering around and running into other gusts, one a little girl who had been blown up. and then having moments that-- and then they have brief moments of kind of small epiphanies of wandering around and seeing his topiary going even though they are ruined they are still quite beautiful and the little girl
appreciates them. i'm standing there watching him with her. for a brief moment i feel this swell of hope and then it's taken away. he goes why would you do that. why would you give us this and then he keeps wandering and keeping looking for god where is god, where are you, why don't you say something, literally at the end. say something, speak through me, through her, through someone, say something, in the face of all this. and he is evolving kind of rapidly. you sent me this memo that had rules of ghosts, basically. the thing about, that-- even then he says i'm getting things just appear to me. knowledge, the stuff of the universe but it doesn't help. i'm still here. and it doesn't-- cub the most brilliant guy in the world and still be up set, still not handling life very well. >> you bring saddam hussein's son ude. >> yeah, that was another story that fascinated me out of the many stories coming out of iraq was the two sons of saddam hussein who seemed so sociopathic and fascinating in their
pathology, in their kind of, i saw them as the spoiled princes. and ude in particular seem to be this kind of joyous psycho path and so he was actually quite, he came out of my imagination quite easyly. once i started writing him and i actually find myself very fond-of-writing lines for him. and then we have a terrific -- >> you mean you caught his voice. >> i guess i did. i caught something. and it was, and he's-- i think he is a great villain for our plichlt and you also get a sense, especially, not even through him but through mousa's kind of reaction to him. >> coming to him and as -- >> well, i used to be his topiary artist and i used to make all the topiaries and he also had raped and killed my sister savagely. and and when he comes to haunt me, it's very, you know, i mean the guy that is
playing, this wonderful actor, he brings so much joy to it, which makes it even scarier. and the lines are kind of like funny. i have many people come to me after the show saying i kind of loved ude, he was really fun. and that like crazy, theatrical way. >> the seductiveness of evil. when you see the documentary footage about him, that he was that crazy, that he did things that one man described who had worked with him said he-- one woman into a bloody pile of parts. he would do this and just be like i can do this he did it because he could. >> even to the point where his father at one point was thinking the boy may not be long for this life. >> and the two brothers died together. >> they did. in the play they talk about one of the main things in the play is some things that were taken from their, from them. >> rose: and there is the golden gun. >> yes, the golden gun that the hussein's had, but it's so interesting because in the play everybody that dies stays as a ghost to haunt
the people who killed him. and one of my favorite lines in the play, and when i first got the play, i read it and i said this is one of the best plays i've read in years. it was on the page. you could see it on the page. and one of the lines that ude hussein says, you americans, you think that when people die they go away. and it's so moving because it's exactly what happens. the repercussion of this war we're going to be living with for decades to am could. and it's so difficult to make a play or any kind of work of literature about war. yet rajiv has done exactly that. >> rose: how did you two guys come together? >> my, we sent my script to moises, and he read it. i mean as simple as that, i think. >> you saw it and said this is for me. >> yes. and usually many times you read a script not for me, i read this and i said this is like what it must have felt like to read a work by young arthur miller, or young tennessee williams. it's like this is the calibre of the writing here. so i read ten pages and i
come by and said i'm doing this. >> but tell me about the evolution of your character. >> i mean because he carries this tragedy in his hands. >> yeah, i mean he's a guy trying to actually live very much in the present. he's got a job as a translator. and what he wants to do is just do that very, very well. but one of the soldiers, brings out this gold gun. and this gold gun immediately registers as ude's gun. and then when i see that, the entire, even in the play, like i see the gold gun. and like all of like the images of my sister come directly towards me. and, and it's-- i mean it's a powerful thing to have a piece of writing that with just one gesture of showing a gold gun have that much effect on an actor. >> you were born in iran. >> i was born in iran. >> and family left in what, 79 or '80. >> we moved to the states in
'85 but yeah, we were out. >> is it hard for you to find roles that you want to play that reflect your own reality of the middle east. >> very much so. because. >> rose: and this one comes along and it meets the test that you have. >> it does. because you know, unfortunately, or fortunately or whatever it is, the majority of roles are written into two worlds for middle eastern actors. victims like overly overly sympathetic victims or terrorists. and the nuance is all gone. and it's difficult, because you don't want to do something that you know, i have two kids. and like in 16 or 17 years they are goinging to see me be like a crazy terrorist, i would be really, really disappointed about that. so when i read this, and i also had the same reaction as moises did, when i read this, it just, it was just a breath of fresh air because rarely dow get to see inside
of someone that is so complex. there is no, like there's no right or wrong. there's no good or bad. there is, there is what can we do right here, right now. what can i deal with right here and right now. >> the survival mechanism, even you say t like what, when we are gone, when the americans leave, this is the reality, who will be in power and what means something what is currency, guns, bullets,things he has to deal with. >> yeah, yeah. >> go ahead. >> no, i just want-- it's exactly that. you know, i have a lot of great lines but one of the great little sections is, what do you think i have to my name, a stupid job with the u.s. military. and what about when you all leave. what will i have then. you know. it's-- that's real. i means that's-- that's not just an iraqi thing. that's anyone that's been displaced from war, from the beginning of time.
you know. and it is interesting because you know, when people come to me after the show and say like i really love the show and blah, blah, blah, rarely do they talk to me about the politics of the play. rarely do they talk about that. they really just talk about-- . >> rose: the ideas and the characters. >> the big ideas, the characters and also like, i get it. people come up to me and say, like, i can see how someone can go down a different path. i can see it under these circumstances. like it's very, very clear. he's written it in such a beautiful way that you get a sense that like, oh, yeah, someone like me or like this can go down this wrong path. i get it i get it. >> remind me of what the role of the ghost is. >> the rules of the ghost. >> role of the ghost. >> well. >> it is more, the rules of the ghost. >> rules of ghosting. >> yes. >> he plays, you know n the first scene the tig certificate killed. and so then he, you know, exits the cage and all of a sudden we have this character that can move forth into the world and
examine what's going on around baghdad. and because he's a primal character, a tiger he becomes apolitical. you know, the drama of mankind means nothing to him. and so he becomes actually a good guide for us to enter into this territory where we're not looking at it from an american or iraqi perfective but rather anima animallistic. >> almost like carlic relief in terms of literally going at one point he said, 16 years ago i killed two children, a little boy, and a little girl saying maybe that is why i am here. but he said it wasn't cruel, it was lunch. that is what i do, i i didn't know they were somebody's kids what is the difference between them and a deer, they're on two legs. and it's the idea of explaining more of that is just going through. and he's trying to figure out why. and even though he's getting different stages of knowledge, even to the point where he becomes highly cynical, where he is like none of this works. it's all, it's crap. why are we here. i don't care. and then i run into him at the very, very end and it is
a whole other discussion. because he made this garden. and then it's really for me, i'm going then you must be him. >> him being. >> god. >> rose: so what role does god play then. >> at that point, he's my-- that's it. you're it. please tell me, tell me what it means, explain it to me. and then it isn't. and then it becomes this bleak kind of, this thing where you just get to the very, very end and it's like what are you doing, wait, please, what. and then this? mean just this? this is it? >> yeah. >> the translator of course is not god. he's just a man. >> tell her i'm a man. >> i'm a man. and he goes no you're god. >> no, you're a man, you're not the cure. >> rose: take a look at this, we're going to see a scene. this is moments before you were killed. before the taker is killed. here is robin. roll tape. >> i'm not going to lie. when i get hungry, i get stupid. 12 years back i screwed up, okay. i followed, i took a bite
and then a tranquilizer dart comes from out of nowhere and i wake up in baghdad. >> so that was depressing. you happy now. >> hell yeah. >> imagine, it's your every day routine. you go out to grab a bite and whack, curtains. >> you swear to god this is really saddam's kid's gun. >> and when you open your eyes are you in a concrete block. >> ude. >> who? >> ude hughes host-- hussein. >> who is that. >> saddam's kid. >> and when are you this far from home, you know you're never getting back. >> rose: when you are watching that, what are you thinking? >> it's interesting because i never really-- i mean obviously in a play i don't have video play back but wow. i mean it's interesting too because the whole metaphor, i'm a tig never a cage but i'm on two legs but they take the metaphor of making the cage look more like jail, so it's like jail, and are you treating it like a guy in a jail but yet it's an
animal. there is great footage of the london zoo of a tiger and all he does is just pace back and forth. and it had a monologue, that same wall, that wall, that wall. and he's just pacing back and forth all day long. when i went to the new york zoo you look and see the animals. at one point there is a great line in the play where the tiger goes, zoo is hell, ask any animal. i would rather be shot up and eaten and end then end up stuck in a freaking zoo like that polar bear they brought here six years ago. he committed suicide. some world, huh? and it's just the idea that they take the metaphor of like the cage, we couldn't make a complete tiger cage but it makes it confines and immediately gives you this inner monologue, almost like a gary larson cartoon. at one point they pro mock-- provoke him and the tiger growls at him and it is a nasty growl where he snaps at the guy but he gives it a line. and basically just, and this is what, and finally when the guy tries to poke him to feed him, i go this is what i am talking about. pure stupidity. and that's the whole
incident. this is his inner monologue, this is what going on in his mind until that moment. in a cage, that's his world. and i screwed up. and he hates lions. got horrible lion envy. what he calls pride envy. and he goes, they hunt as a group, yeah the lions have their own big outdoor lion's den, yeah, and they need eight of them. they had eight lions, eight lions. yeah, but that keeps with him, all throughout the play. any time he runs into lions. lions. >> so he's pissed. they anger him because in reality, tiger are lone pred ferr-- predators and they hunt alone, and the biggest and best predator in the world but obviously everyone loves lions. they get their own musical. >> rose: that lion is not in there. >> no, that would be rough, people would be warning, warning. but he wrote is the idea of, like the rules like i said of building this reality of
like the same thing he said. if you have to treat it as this real conflict for him, even though he's kind-of-wandering around, running into different people at different points. and anyone, even the soldier i have this discussion but it's not, i don't relate to him as much as i'm trying to find my way out in a weird way in my own selfishness i miss out at a chance of redemption there, so it is quite fascinating. and we see it like i said some nights people come expecting me to riff and i'm not going to do it, i can't rdz so how did you prepare for this? was this -- >> we had a great rehearsal process plus i'm working with a great ensemble of people it is incredible to be welcomed into a group. >> rose: you came in after they had -- >> totally. and it's a great group to work it. and everyone fires on all cylinders. it really is, even though my name is above the title i'm one of many, which is great. >> rose: but does this somehow meaningful to you in some sense to define this kind of thing at this point. >> totally, very powerful for me at this point in my life what is going on with the war.
>> like the war ising go to end. >> according it to the secretary of defense, maybe not but the idea that what are we going to bear with those. what consequences of those. we are already getting people coming back pretty messed up. suffering from post traumatic stress and all these other-- . >> rose: american soldiers coming back. >> coming back. >> with a lot of that, with a lot of post traumatic stress. basically the equivalent of being haunted by their images, of the things. and in all my years i have only met one guy in a hospital who had post traumatic stress and he was pretty messed up. and he was, you know, you could see that he had deep, deep seeded long-term effects. so this play talks about that, but it also talks about the bigger picture thanks to what he wrote about, about life, and the meaning of that and what is it, what are you going to take away from all this. >> rose: and you, when you set out to cast this, what did you know you had to do? >> well, none of the characters that rajiv writes
are b dimensional. they rawl three dimensional. as aria was saying, we have these characters that have to be full characters. they are not symbols or anything. the american soldier is not a symbol for the american soldier. the tig certificate not a symbol for anything. these are fully fledged ca,. so i needed to cast the best actors i possibly could. and what has been wonderful about all the reviews we have been getting is that everyone talks about the came per of the acting it is a really, it is a real ensemble piece. what was wonderful about working with robin is that robin came in with the rest of the cast in plays, and within two days he was part of the company. he was a part of the company. >> it is this idea of coming in and going, it's like work wuing a great basketball team, great cycling team. all of a sudden it works together. all of us carry and hit our notes and sing these great harmonies in these scenes which is incede kbl. even the smallest part is really powerful, whether it's the young iraqi girl. we have a helper. all these, we have a helper.
-- leper, just in case. but it's the idea that everybody works, and all, like you said, unique, powerful in their own right. there is not a moment where you go oh, what's next. here is another thing that people have been coming and seeing the play. they don't expect, what, just to get used to a character and all of a sudden they are dead and then they come back. not only are they dead, they're back. they're like imagine jack as the tiger. yeah, yeah, yeah. i'm bigger than them. lions always get there, just licking their ass all day. i just ate a lawyer. sorry. bad joke go ahead. >> rose: i'm so happy to have you here. so you obvious-- obviously wrote and you said it, somehow this is a connection between a primal self and spiritual self. how so. >> that i think that the play deals with that
question, you know, when we go to war, we are tending to our most primal self. and then but we are-- all of the things that made us want to kill. and but when we get there, and we are in the middle of the war, then all the spiritualist question as rise. in the -- >> everything you see. >> yes. and in the aftermath of the war, you know, eventually we as human beings have to decide. we have to choose between our primal self and spiritual self and it's in the moment of that battle that the play takes place. and that's why the tiger is so important because the tiger completely articulates our primal self. and in the middle of this war this primal self is so clear but he gets lost. >> rose: what dow hope people come away with from this play? >> i mean, there's a lot. i mean i just, for me, the thing, i think for all of us, actually, is that they come away and really see a slice
of war. you know, when strange love came out, this is how i feel, that when strange love came out they saw what war was and in an absurd way and i feel like that is what i would love i would love for people to see what war has taken us to. look at how every element of humanity is totally examined and i really, i want people to think that it's funny because it is funny. >> someone came who was a journalist who had been there several times. and she said it really touched on the insanity of what that is. and the situation in iraq. >> rose: yeah. >> she was a reporter who was in iraq when they were looking for the weapons of mass destruction at the beginning of the war, several times in the course of the war. she said she had never seen a play that caught, that captured the absurdity of war and the insanity of the war better than this play. >> rose: congratulations. i want to see one clip with
you, here it is, this is where you are talking to the american soldier about learning english. here it is. >> i speak english but i do not always understand casual american phrases. so when i go with the soldiers i listen for these phrases and then i write them down so i can better understand the w that you speak it is also why i enjoy watching friends. >> you're learning english from watching fast and furious. >> i'm watching fast and furious because i like the cars. >> yeah, they're sweet ass. >> there is comedy here too. >> it's funny it is a very funny, funny play. >> it is a funny play. >> rose: bengal tiger at the baghdad zoo is plague at broadway's richard rogers theatre currently scheduled to run through july 3rd it has gotten sensational reviews because of the four people sitting here at this table. thank you. >> good to see you. >> rose: thank you, great to meet you. >> good luck with the voices. >> rose: let the camera keep rolling.
>> a little charlie, charlie rose. good thing, i remember young charlie rose. i said charlie, oh, and charlie even as a child was doing interviews with his bear. he would line up all the little animals at the table and he had a little tiny table and the animals. and what are you up to teddy. and he had a picture. and he had things written down. he just looked at the questions and things and teddy, how long have you been stuffed? and the bear was there, and then he would turn and the other animals would just look at him and he would turn, as a rabbit do you feel fear. and rabbit, do you feel fear near this small stuffed animal. we'll be right back. >> rose: alexandra styron is here, she is an author and has written a memoir about her family, great american writer william styron. in the book reading my
father, alexandra explores history uchls and his challenges. bill styron's book includes lie down in darkness, stove -- sophie's choice, both achieved enormous success. he also struggled with depression. william styron appeared on this broadcast several times. here he is in 1993, talking about the writing craft. >> you know, the imaginative act is just that. it is trying to search for levels of meaning that you are quite unaware that you possess. i me it's tapping into yo subconscious. you sit down, at first you have no idea what you are going do and allf a dden after an hr you suddenly realize you're seeing things you have not even known existed. you don't dredge it up. it pops up. and there is a kind of astonishing. they're revelations, epiphaes as george used to call them. these nd of moments, i don't mean to sound fancy. they're not spiritual experiences but they are
enormously fascinating revelations what goes on in one's subconscious. >> rose: bill styron, 18 years ago. i'm pleased to have alexandra styron at this table for the first time to talking about reading my father, a book of memoir about this remarkable novelist. welcome. >> thank you so much. >> rose: as i said to you before, i remember you this high. >> yes, a lot of people do. >> rose: that was 18 years ago when he was on the program. >> i know, i know. was that just after his, that must have been just onpr. e:oshi rdesi i espron. >> rose: i think so. so why this? >> i wrote this book because i really felt like it was an important story to tell. i feel like my father's story was a really extraordinary one and he has this incredible success and this great rise and this really tragic fall. though he wrote about his depression and darkness
visible, that book came 20 years before his death. and he didn't write another major novel. he didn't write a novel at all in those last 20 years. and there was a story there i felt needed it to be told. and his legacy deserved it. >> one of the they cease of this book and it wasn't something i set out to say but it was something i discovered in the sort of journey of getting to know him, which i really did, writing this book, is you know, i really feel like writing great novels and fiction was my father's primary passion. it was the love of his life. and it was the thing he cared about most. and like many great artists, everything else was put aside for the novel. and i think that his muse abandoned him for many different reasons. and i think that's what made him really spiral into this
depression from which he recovered and then fell into again. >> what were the muses that abandoned him? >> well, i think his gift for writing the sort of epic novels, were no longer, he wasn't satisfied with his multiple efforts of which there were many. i had known all through sort of my young adult hood that my father was working on a world war ii novel this was going to be his next great book and he was calling it the way of the warriors and it had another title at another point. but it was the next book. he wrote sophie's choice. he was this superstar. everyone wanted to know what bill styron was doing next. he was writing this war novel. and he always wanted to write a war novel it was his thing. his generation, james jones, and curt vonnegut and many
other writers had written great war novelties and he wanted to write a great war novel. mail her written a great war novel. and it just didn't come together. it didn't come together for him. >> rose: he lost his muse for many reasons, you said. the reasons were -- >> well, i think that several things sort of, there was a kind of perfect storm of events that i think happened for my father emotionally. he was always very, he was a terrible hypocond ree ago which was a source of amusement sometimes but it really is a pathological illness. hypocondie a and my father suffered with it along with depression. and sow didn't have a lot of control over his sense of whether he was, you know, a hangnail could just make him spiral. and i think, you know, he turned 60 and this sort of intimations of mortality were really intense. and he, you know, had a minor medical problem and he
stopped drinking because of that minor medical problem. and i think what happened is that unmasked a kind of lat ent depression that he had always suffered from. so i think that there were all of those things. and a lot of unresolved grief from his childhood which then he had to try to contend with. >> was there no help possible? >> in his first depression, in 1985 when he was 60 he went to the blackest black place and he was hospitalized. and he recovered and he wrote this beautiful memoir, darknesses, which was original in its information at the time. and really changed people's lives. and helped so many people and it was an extraordinary thing. and i think a certain, there was a certain catharsis for him in writing that book. but it wasn't enough to guarantee his mental health
for the rest of his life. he didn't continue with any kind of therapy. he didn't take, continue medication. and so he was very vulnerable to it happening again. >> this is what you site here, diving into the wreck. i came to explore the wreck, the words or purposes, the words are maps. i came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevailed. what was the journey that abled to you do in this quote captures. >> you know, when i started the book i wasn't, i had-- i had written a magazine piece that was contained piece. that was actually partly about real estate. but also about my father and about living in brooklyn and about living near to the place where my father had lived as a young man and where he found the inspiration for sophie's choice. so that was the starting point for this. and then i very swiftly after that magazine piece
came out i signed a contract to write a book. and then i really had a panic attack. >> a lot of his papers are at duke. >> yeah s so i then, in order to sort of recover from my sense of panic that i couldn't remember him and that would i only, i would only have terrible things to say because you know, he had had this terrible illness and he had been not such a terrific father. and then i went down to duke and i kind of found him as a man, separate from myself. and that was quite wonderful. >> rose: and what was it like? i mean all of a sudden you discovered someone you didn't know. >> i discovered not someone i didn't know but someone who, the best of him i had sort of lost track of. and that came back up. his great charm and humor and kindness to other people. he was a great friend. he was a great mentor. so all of that became very palpable for me. looking through these papers. and i was so grateful for that. i means that's such a great thing, you know, i feel very lucky. most people when their
parents die they have maybe-- you know, some letters. >> rose: you had words to look into. >> i had so much to look at, yeah. >> you say in the book by nature daddy was a solitary figure like so many successful only children, he harbored a rich inner life but because his mother was constantly sick there was an edge of fear to his perspective. and no one with whom to share if. a permanent feeling of isolation was hard for him to shake. daddy's own chronic mall addee, endless ear infections and chest colds when a child only compounded his separateness as he was often kept inside and away from his usual childhood scrums. literature was an idealet ai what. daddy channeled his confidence into story writing and discovering can a talent found a way to connect to the world. by college following a solitary path as a writer seemed a natural choice. >> rose: you found that in letters. you found that in -- >> yes, very much so. i think i, he became very clear for me. i think one of the most poignant things for me was
that i had eye-- am i a mother of an 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl. but i really felt, i don't think coy have written this book before i was a parent. because i think one of the things that really happened for me down there was reading these letters that my grand moth her written before she died and reading my father's journal when he was 14, the year his mother died, i, it just broke my heart, you know. i really realized that he had, how isolated he was. and how painful it would have been to have been an only child with a mother who was dying through his entire childhood. and how much that formed who he was. and how it crippled him in a lot of ways. >> rose: if he was here today what would you most like to ask him? >> i would like to know that, i have many questions about writing i would like to ask him. but i guess i would want to
ask him if he felt that i had done him, if i had done, not done him proud but if i had done him well in this book. >> in this book. >> rose: yeah. >> it's interesting to go from this place of being, feeling, you know, when my father died i was ready to move on. you know, i think i felt like okay, this is a lot. he was a challenging man and his death was protracted and we all rallied around him. it was painful those last years. and hi small children and a husband and is was ready to kind of get on with my life. and all of a sudden i turned around and did a 180 and decided to spend three years investigating him him. but it has allowed me to feel just as you said, you know, instead of feeling like we're done, now i-- now i do have questions.
now i do-- . >> rose: the more you know the more you want to know. >> yeah, i wish he were here. i wish coy spend time with him knowing what i knowes know . >> rose: thank you for coming. >> thank you so much for having me. >> rose: alexandra styron, the book is called reading my father about her father bill styron. >> rose: james stewart is here. a financial journalist and a best selling author. he won a pulitzer prize in 1988 for his reporter on insider trading in the stock market crash of 1987. in his new book he looks at why prominent americans are lying under oath. it is called tangled webs, how false statementsts arerere undermining america from martha stewart to bernie maddoff. very pleased to have estimate stewart back at this table. welcome. >> thank you charlie, great to be here. >> rose: you were saying what about perjury that we take it too lightly that more americans are inclined to do it, what is the thesis. >> all of that. i think perjury and false statement in official investigations are reaching a crisis proportion, a near epidemic, in part because such prominent people are doing it.
the cases i chose, they're all, they were all role models in their respective fileds. martha stewart in media in business, scooter libbey at the highest level of white house in politics, barry bonds, hero to many, home run king, professional athlete, much admired and bernie maddoff until his disgrace, one of the most admired figures on wall street. these people influenced everyone around them. and it has had a debilitating effect i think on the administration of justice and more generally the moral fabric of our society. >> rose: how did you come to choose this as the subject for your book? >> i was giving a talk a few years ago about the wave of corporate scandals over the last 10 or 15 years, really pretty extraordinary, enron, worldcom, adelphia, tyco, healthsouth, they just went on and on. there seemed to be no common nexus. these people didn't know each other. they weren't part of the same investment banking circles it wasn't like my-- one day it dawned on me, wait a minute there is a common theme here.
misleading investors, filing false financial statements, lying, essentially about the state of the businesses, with the consequences of investors losing billions and billions of dollars, peoples losing confidence in american business, and these people like the characters in my book, are role models. they're successful, they're rich, well educated, community leaders. and they were brazenly lying and damaging people as a result. >> rose: what is interesting about the book is that you were able to recapture through your own journalistic absoluting, you were able to recapture the moment and leading up to the moment in which they had to make the critical decision. >> yes, i'm really pleased. i was able through the information act getting actual transcript which were record of people lying undernote that exact where you can see t it is dram tides. you see the dialogue, the questions, answers building to the fateful question and then you see them cross that line. and to me those are dramatic moments. i try to put it into a con secretaries-- context so you as the reader know when it is happening and at least
have some understanding why they are doing it. thats was the mystery to me. why would people risk everything. and three of these case, martha stewart was never charged with insider trading which is what she was being investigated for. scooter libbey was never charged with leaking a cia agent's identity. he was charged with perjury, barry bonds had immunity from all crimes including steroid and drug use. cokonl be prosecuted for one thing and that was if he lied before the grand jury and he lied. and bernie maddoff is a different story because he got away with it for so long. he to me dramatized what happens and we shrug and don't take perjury seriously and especially when law enforcement itself is so overwhelmed by everyone lying to them that they decide we're to the going to bother with just perjury cases. >> rose: so why do they do it. >> these people all did think they could get away with it. in some of the cases they came veries close. martha stewart came the closest to getting away with it. but you see in context, there are many other reasons. one is going to that point, they've all done thingses that they've gotten away
with before. secondly, and that's very reinforcing. >> rose: do you think think they are above the law. >> i think so in most cases. very successful people just have a tendency sometimeses to believe that. but very telling he-- telling to me is at this level, these people are surrounded by what i would call enablers. they are surrounded by coworkers, people who report to them, people they've benefitted, people who depend on them for money. and all of these other people showed in my view a shameless willingness to sit there and be lied to and nod and smile and say oh yes, you are right, absolutely. whatever you say. they're never challenged. and i have to say lawyerses have a lot to answer for in all of this, because each of these people had a lawyer at their side at this time they committed these lies. when you see in context, these aren't common lies. >> rose: isn't there some legal definition which lawyers can be in trouble if they are found lying. >> i thought so i went to law school and i remember-- it
is sometimes, if knew your client confessed to you then your client went on the stand and said he didn't do it,. >> it is limited to official judician proceedings in the court courtroom before a judge. so in other words, it technically doesn't cover fbi investigations, grand jury proceedings, and to their credit none of these lawyers actually let their clients go testify on the stand, martha stewart didn't testify, scooter libbey don't testify, barry bondses did not difficult. but there were lawyers involved. as far as i'm concerned ethically there really should be no difference. i can't-- by the way. karl rove had a great lawyer and one of the reasons is because he would not-- he made him call and correct the record and produced the damaging e-mail. i'm not sure they all do that. >> rose: but he made karl rove acknowledge that what he had said was inaccurate. >> and i'm telling you, karl rove came so close to being indicted. i mean a hair's breath of being indicted. >> rose: why didn't they
indict him. >> partly because of-- . >> rose: he had a good lawyer. >> he had a good lawyer, he corrected the record. it was plausible that he had forgotten it, if maybe not convincing. >> rose: you argued that he lied to the president. >> that is me is one of the most stunning things in here. when bushes was questioned about what happened, he said that he asked karl rove point-blank if he was the source or a source for bob novak's column. and rove answered that no, he wasn't. he admitted he had spoke tone karl rove but said-- . >> rose: he admitted he had spoken to bob novak, but the subject of valerie plame had never even come up that is what he told president bush. and i believe that fitzgerald was so troubled by this, that he took the extraordinary step, though he did not seek an indictment of rove, he wrote a letter to president bush summarizing the evidence that had emerged on rove's behavior. because rove was one of the two sources for bob novak who identified the covert agents.
and i fitzgerald would not comment about this, and rightly so but my assumption is that he expected the president to take action as a result of this. and dismiss him, reprimand him, remove him from his job and as far as anyone knows, bush did absolutely nothing. and by the way, it's very disspiriting to me-- . >> rose: but awe assumed that because of fitzgerald's material that fitzgerald sent that the president knew karl rove was not forthcoming. >> that's correct. fitzgerald told him the contradictions in the system and-- testimony and what had emerged in this letter that is my understanding of it. and he did nothing. and not only that shall did --. >> rose: it was almost like are you saying that fitzgerald chose not to prosecute but sent material to bush hoping that he would fire him. >> exactly. and it is also very disappointing to me that bush, who was very, actually quite eloquent in saying he wouldn't tolerate perjury in his white house. he wouldn't tolerate the leak of a covert agent's identity when he actually learned that someone had leaked it, he did nothing. and he commuted "scooter" libby's sentence.
>> rose: it is said that the fact that he didn't pardon "scooter" libby at the end of his term when, his second term, was a great fissure between the vice president and the president. >> yes, it created a furious argument. and the vice president said it was like leaving a dead soldier's body on the battlefield which is pretty harsh characterization of that. >> rose: yeah. >> so question, i give bush credit for not parding him but really he shouldn't have commuted the sentence. he is the top law enforcement officer of the country what message did this send to the justice department if people who are supposed to prosecute perjury, fitzgerald was furious about t made some very strong statements in court about it. but i think it sends a terrible message. and by the way, bush comes on the heels of president clinton who committed perjury, grudgingly acknowledged it and has never really apologized for. >> rose: never apologise. >> well n a very grudging and halfhearted way so here we have back-to-back presidents who have either committed perjury or condoned it.
>> rose: now your central point is that it is permeating our society and suggests that perjury some not the same as other crimes. >> yes, and that's item maddoff case is astonishing, that the sec is lied to so regularly that i figure gooding into this that maddoff must be this incredible liar. he must be a genius at lying, an evil genius at it. and then you see his lies, they're terrible. he was a terrible liar. four sec investigation, the sec investigators knew he was lying under oath. they said so. they are hoping up and down and said we have to do something about t we should refer it. >> rose: why didn't anything happen. >> the higher ups in the sec shrug ready and said perjury what can we do about that, it's just perjury. and the inspector general of the sec told me to his knowledge the sec has never referred a perjury case to the justice department without an accompanying securities fraud. which is too ignore the fact that people don't go to the sec and lie just for the fun of it. they are hiding something. >> rose: tell me the story of senator bailey hutchinson
and what she said that sort of gives you a sense of how perjury is not viewed in the same way as other things. >> yeah, well it was the eve of the indictment of libbey for perjury which by the way he was indicted on several counts but he lied repeatedly before the grand jury, bad lies as well. and so she came on tv and said just before it was announced, she said i certainly hope they're not just going to indict him for perjury because that's just, you know, without perjury, who cares about it. >> she belittled it. >> rose: it was almost like she said i hope they find a real krik and not just perjury. >> like wait a minute, perjury is not a crime. as i pointed out, perjury has been a crime as long as theres that been any criminal code in society it was a crime in ancient rome, there was a death penalty and in england they cut your tongue out. that may be going too far t is barbaric. but there needs to be enforcement. >> rose: so your clarion call is that we need to prosecute for perjury because it is a serious issue that is. this book and say that it doesn't have major consequences.
it's not just the judicial system it is the society at large. at every level. i think we need-- the clarion call, it at the top to do something and at the bottom we have to stop condoning it, we have to teach our children, make sure the schools focus on this. because all of-- from time to time i don't think we commit perjury but we should be careful not to condone it. >> rose: your dedication i thought would be yrb dr-- your mother maybe but it's not. >> she had too many books already. >> to all who speak the truth. >> i mean that as heartfelt it takes alot of courage to tell the truth, and to find the truth, and their characters in that book who are very positive role models as well who risk a great deal at no gain, who just put their hand up and wore to tell the truth and that is what they did. >> are you surprised that there have been no prosecutions as critch enmorgenson wrote in the "new york times" the other day coming out of the economic crisis and the recession. >> yes. >> and ukt. >> i am surprised. >> why do you think. >> you want to talk about
perjury and lying. how much was there in all of that. massive amounts. and i would have to look at some individual cases. and i think, i know a few people who frankly i thought were very likely to get indicted and they haven't about. and so i would really like to probe more. one of the problems with grand jury secrecy and i suppose it serves many purposes but it's very rare that you actually get those transcripts. and so when they-- the justice department decides not to prosecute someone it's very hard to evalliace thought decisions because you never see the evidence but i think it's worth looking into to see why those judgements were made. i'm conditioned about it. >> how do you think americas aboutple who lie sexual conductness. >> i looked at many perjury case. i chose these four because i thousand they illustrated important points. >> rose: and i finally decided, i looked at prominent, wealthy successful people like john edwards and finally decided i'm throwing sex out. there are so many examples of lying under oath about sex and so many perjury cases about sex. now under the law sex is not
a special category. practically speaking it seems to be in a class of its own. maybe that needs some examination but i just decided look, i don't want to go down that road. >> are we different than other seats, than the english or french or the-- indians, the russianses? >> look y do people lie about these things. it's because to admit the truth maybe is not doing something illegal but it's very embarrassing. and we as a society seem to be more squeamish. >> you make the point that in the martha stewart case, that they offered her a terrific deal. >> fabulous deal. >> she was not prepared to admit she had done wrong. >> absolutely not. she said her business couldn't take it but all the prosecutors thought martha couldn't take it. i mean you can argue she is a perfectionist but beyond that, herself image was such that there was no way that she could look at the world and say i lied about something. you throw sex into the mix and you get people who they just can't bring themselves to admit it and it may be that we are squeamish about it and we should grow up about it and say wells, it's no different than lying
about anything else so what's the big deal. it is not a defense of the law but i decided i was to the going to get into that area in book. this is not about sex or minor laws. these are all big laws lies, told under oath. and in all four cases. >> rose: tangled web. thank you my friend. good to see you. >> thank you, charlie.